Recent advances in Internet and consumer technologies and new practices of networked consumption have changed the patterns of communication between brands and their publics. Everyday people – as individuals and communities – are appropriating, remixing, and recirculating brand icons in ways that are often beyond the control of those who have historically shepherded the brand message: sometimes, in ways which lowers the cost of spreading the word about new products and services, sometimes in ways which challenges corporate claims. Some of these transactions look like “user-generated content” and others look like “piracy” or “ad-busting.” In this atmosphere, corporations need to embrace new engagement strategies, ones which increase the range of possible and permissible meanings associated with brands, ones which open up valid channels of communication with all stakeholders, and ones which play out across the full range of possible communication channels. Engagement has become a key buzz word in the 21st century, whether we are discussing news, entertainment, education, politics, and lastly, but not least, branding. If old branding models were based on tight control over the circulation and messaging, such controls are no longer practical or desirable in a world where if it doesn’t spread, it’s dead. But, there’s still much we do not know about how branding will work in this new and evolving environment.

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